The “Cuties” backlash is peculiarly untethered from facts

The more valid criticism of Cuties is that it contributes unintentionally to the problem it intends to critique. Rod Dreher makes the best version of this argument in a recent column (it helps that he’s actually watched the film), writing that Cuties “engages and demonstrates with great passion the very thing it purports to condemn,” and likening it to “a movie with an anti-gluttony message that spends half the movie filming eating pastries with lascivious abandon.” Unfortunately, that argument is also somewhat misleading: namely, Dreher both mischaracterizes and grossly overstates the amount of screen time devoted to twerking tweens — the dancing scenes add up to less than 10 minutes all together. That said, it’s true that this movie engages with its topic in ways that are not always easy to watch. In one particular scene (the one that sparked the current outrage after it was circulated out of context on social media), the girls dance in revealing outfits while the camera lingers lasciviously on their bodies, music video-style. It’s gross and inappropriate, particularly clipped out of context.

But in the actual film, the dancing is intercut with reaction shots from revolted audience members that affirm the wrongness of what you’re seeing — and at the end, with Amy’s own tear-stained face as she freezes and finally flees the stage. If this scene makes you squirm, then good. It’s supposed to.